I use Outlook at work. Like many Outlook users, I allowed my email to get very unorganized last year. My inbox was a dumping ground for read messages and dead mail I never intended to read in the first place. I had a huge number of unopened messages and my sent messages had absolutely no order or reason at all.
I decided that for 2009, this was going to change. Here’s what I did –
First, I reviewed ALL the emails in my inbox and moved them to appropriate sub-folders under the Inbox. (You can create sub-folders by right-clicking on the Inbox folder and selecting ‘New Folder’)
Then, I moved all the corresponding SENT messages to the same folders.
(Why did I move all the ‘Sent’ messages to the inbox folders? That way they are chronologically ordered in the proper category if I ever have to search for what I said to someone.)
I then cleared out all the ‘Deleted Items’ and ‘Drafts.’
Next, along the top menu under File -> Archive, select ‘Archive this folder and all sub folders,’ and select your Inbox. (NOTE – INBOX, not Mailbox!)
Set the date for “Wed 12/31/2008”
Click ‘Browse’ to navigate to your “My Documents” Directory (will be an icon on the left)
I made a folder called Outlook Backups and named my backup ‘2008.” It will automatically put a suffix of ‘.pst’ on the file.
Click OK to close the dialog.
Click OK to start the Archive process.
Get your coffee; this will take a while if you have any volume of messages …
Once finished your Email Inbox and Sent folders are clean as a whistle, and your Contacts, Notes, Calendar and Tasks are undisturbed.
You can also set this to automatically Archive at regular intervals – I’m setting mine to archive every three months. Do this by right-clicking your Inbox, selecting ‘Properties’ and the ‘AutoArchive’ tab.Then select “Archive this folder using these settings.”Set the interval to something you think is appropriate. For me its 3 months.Select “Move old items to” and click Browse to again navigate to your my Documents/Outlook Backups directory. This time I named it ‘2009’ because, well, it’s 2009 now ;]Click Apply. If you have never set any ‘Global Archive Options’ then a warning will appear that this option will be set to 14 days. Note the location it tells you to make that change and click ‘OK.’
Click OK to close the dialog.
Now click Tools -> Options -> Other.
Unselect ‘Run Auto Archive every (xx) days’ and click OK. That’s it!
If you’re really into it, you can mange it all from this dialog – but you’re on your own! In this advanced mode you have a lot of control over how messages are moved or (optionally) deleted. It’s beyond the scope of this tutorial to get into those details. I never delete messages anyway as I have no clue which ones I may have to reference in the future.
If you need to access the archived mails you CAN, by simply clicking
File -> Open -> Outlook Data File … and navigate to the location where you stored your backup file. You will see a new folder at the bottom of your folder list in Outlook called ‘Archive Filders.’ Click on the Plus Sign next to it and all your inbox folders and messages are there!! Right click on the Archive Folder and select ‘Close Archive Folders’ and they’re out of your way until you need them next. Want to retrieve one? No problem – with the archive folders open, simply drag a message to your current inbox or sub folder.
Now that your email is ‘archived’ properly, lets ‘back up’ your contacts, calendar, tasks and notes. Here’s how –
Click on File -> Import and Export, select ‘Export to a File’ and click next.Select ‘Personal Folder File (PST)’ and click next.This time, Select MAILBOX, and click ‘include subfolders’ beneath it, and click next.
Browse to your My Documents directory as above.
The selections here are mute for the first time run – there should be no duplicates since you are running this for the first time. If this is not the first time, select appropriately for your situation. Altho, if this is not your first time backing up Outlook, I doubt you are reading this ;]
Click ‘Finish’ to initiate the process. Unlike the Archive process, the Export does NOT remove anything from Outlook – just backs it up in a safe file in case you tank your current outlook.pst file.
You can access the Backup in the same manner as the Archive.
Now, when I receive an email, once I’ve satisfied the requirements of the message I move it to an appropriate sub-folder immediately. Any messages I sent regarding that issue go to the same sub-folder. For 2009, messages in my Inbox will indicate that there is something left to do. An empty Inbox is a happy inbox!!
According to Microsoft, once an outlook PST file hits 2GB Outlook cripples itself. (Google ‘outlook pst greater than 2 gb’) At 1GB performance slows. Think about it, the server has to wade through literally thousands, maybe millions, of messages to display the ones for your inbox. Speed is an issue for me; this really increases Outlooks performance, not to mention makes it MUCH neater and less likely for me to miss something important.
Once an Outlook ‘dot pst’ file tanks, you lose EVERYTHING in your outlook – contacts, calendar, tasks, emails, everything. If this has ever happened to you then you realize the value of this kind of backup. There are lengthy tutorials and complicated tools for recovering corrupted Outlook.pst files. It’s much better to prevent than repair when it comes to important data.
I believe the Exchange Server where I work is overloaded and frequently things are very slow for me, so every little bit of load we can take off the server is a good thing. With the multitudes of emailboxes on our Exchange Server, if everyone did this I’d be willing to bet there would be a noticeable performance increase for everyone.
Not to mention, organization begat productivity …
Happy New Year!